The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories [A Review]

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, by Ken Liu


   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]


I read the title story some time back and loved it. Since then, I had been meaning to get my hands on this book and never got round to it until a few days ago. I’m glad I finally did, because I like the way Ken Liu writes, and especially after two books (not his) that were kind of disappointing in the last few weeks (see my last two book reviews).

As with most collections of short stories, there are some in this book that I really like, and some that I can do without. But I think the former outnumbers the latter, despite the fact that a number of the stories are tinged with sadness and melancholy.

I like the way the writer tends to blend history and culture with science fiction so seamlessly in many of his stories. I’m most impressed by the way he has managed to present the different perspectives of East Asia and the West, and how he’s able to draw me into the stories. Perhaps it’s because I have some understanding of both cultures, being a Singaporean with Chinese roots and all, but even if you don’t, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something in there that calls to your heart. 

Interestingly, Ken Liu appeared in my reading radar after his translation of The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin was published. I was planning to read the original version of the book in Chinese, because I didn’t want my experience of the book to be influenced by a translator. But now that I’ve read Ken Liu’s own writings, I’m keen to try the translated version.

Ken Liu has also created the Dandelion Dynasty trilogy. The first two books have been published and he’s working on the third. My hands are itching to buy the first two books, but rational me is telling me to wait for the third book, because I like my series to be complete before starting on them. It’s due to be published in 2017. Let’s see if I can hold out till then.

VERDICT: This is a must-read for anyone who likes history, culture and science fiction all in one book.


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